Le Monde on 5 May ran a short article on the Chinese-run casinos in Pangwa, a town across the Chinese border controlled by the New Democratic Kachin Army. Pangwa is not one of the “special regions” but, like those, seems to be run by a combination of an ethnic Chinese civil elite and an armed faction.
Referring mostly to reports in Chinese media, the article writes about the closure of bigger casinos to the south in the zone controlled by the Independent Kachin Army, where Chinese police has intervened. In Pangwa, rumours have it that some Chinese customers who have threatened to denounce the owners to Chinese authorities have been killed.
The article is far from being well-researched, but it does point to interesting questions about the different ways in which local elites in various “special regions” articulate with interests and powers inside China. It also suggests that in at least some cases, greater influence of Chinese authorities may be preferable to local ones. (I was reminded of Russia’s withdrawal from Chechnya: there is little doubt that now the local despot, anointed by Russia, is alone with his subjects, it will be so much the worse for them. Obviously, there are many parallels from the history of Western colonialism too.)